The 2023 season was one of growth for the Adelaide Football Club. 

From a pair of Showdown victories to opening Gather Round in style, the campaign was filled with memorable moments. 

Across the next few months we will look back on the 2023 season by hearing from the players who helped define it.

Welcome to AFC Media’s Reflections series. 

When it comes to his debut season in the AFL, Crows defender Max Michalanney can sum it up with one short, but powerful, statement.

“A dream come true.”

Growing up, Michalanney idolised the Crows, hoping that he would one day take to the field alongside his childhood heroes Rory Sloane, Taylor Walker and Rory Laird.

The youngster has a decorated football pedigree - his dad Jim played 211 games for Norwood, including four SANFL flags - allowing Michalanney the opportunity to join Adelaide as a Father/Son prospect.

And, with the goal of being selected by the AFL Club he grew up supporting never far from his mind, the talented defender quickly climbed the ranks as a junior.

By his draft year, Michalanney became one of the top South Australian prospects. 

This opened the door for the Crows to select him with Pick No.17 in the 2022 National Draft, thus beginning an exciting new chapter of his football journey.

Speaking to AFC Media as part of its Reflections series, the 19-year-old opened up on his expectations leading into his debut season.

“Coming into this season I was just planning on trying to play one game of AFL footy,” Michalanney said.

“So to play all bar one at AFL level it’s something I’m very proud of and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.

“Pulling on the Crows colours has meant a lot to me, I grew up a supporter and was dreaming of that moment since I could remember, so for it to finally happen and get the chance to play with some of my childhood heroes.

“It’s been a dream come true for me.”

Michalanney excelled in his maiden campaign at AFL level, featuring in 22 matches and becoming a crucial part of the Crows’ defence.

But the trademark of his debut season was his ability to play on the best small forwards in the competition, where he showed maturity and composure beyond his years.

He explained how much preparation went into his battles against the likes of Michael Walters, Toby Greene and Charlie Cameron.

“Throughout the year I played on a lot of class opponents, which was a great experience for me,” Michalanney said.

“A lot of preparation went into preparing for my opponents each week. I spoke to Burnsy (Scott Burns) a lot, watched heaps of vision and tried to pick the brain of the more experienced guys. 

“Then on game day it was all about just going out there and giving it a good crack for four quarters.”

Along with these battles, Michalanney’s first season was filled with a number of highlights. 

But when it came to picking his favourite, he narrowed it down to two equally special moments.

“My debut game was obviously really special, not only for me but my family as well, the result wasn’t what we planned but it was still a great day nonetheless,” Michalanney said.

“The first Showdown, which happened to be my first win, was also incredible and a night I’ll remember forever.

“The boys played really well, the crowd was unbelievable and I just remember pinching myself that I was involved in such a big game.

“To finally get that first win and sing the song, it was surreal.”

While the 19-year-old received plenty of plaudits for his maiden campaign, he is certainly not one to rest on his laurels.

Having built a solid foundation in 2023, he revealed the two areas he would be looking to improve in the off-season to take his game to the next level. 

“I’ve got to improve both sides of my game,” Michalanney said.

“There is the physical side of it where I need to put on a bit more weight, get stronger and of course fitter as well, so I’ll be working very closely with the High Performance team over the pre-season.

“Then there is also the skills and IQ side of the game which can always be improved and is an important part of getting me to the next level.”